Non-fiction alert!

Just finished Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman, which is the chronicle of a year in the lives of six unlikely women who came together to help each other through a challenge they each faced: widowhood. Aikman, a widow in her mid-40s, struggled to find other women in her shoes who could help her deal with her grief and find a way to move forward. She tried a support group but found herself out of place among older, grieving women who were not interested in moving on and reestablishing their lives. So she decided to form her own group. She networked and found five other women who had recently lost their husbands, and formed a group to see whether they might be able to help each other.

The Saturday Night Widows – Becky, Tara, Dawn, Lesley, Denise and Marcia – were very different from each other. Some had kids, some had moved on to new relationships. Their husbands had died in different ways – cancer, heart attack, suicide, alcoholism, accident. Yet they had open minds and hearts, and building on monthly meetings (usually on Saturday nights), they ended up forming a tight bond that continues to this day. They discussed all of the difficult topics they were facing – what to do with their husbands’ possessions; how to handle dating; how to afford living in expensive Manhattan apartments on one salary. They pushed themselves to try new things – spas, lingerie shopping, cooking classes – all the while relying on each other for support, honesty, and moments of levity that were badly needed.

I was worried that Saturday Night Widows might be boring, but it wasn’t. I liked how Aikman teased out each woman’s story (including her own), weaving them through the year of monthly Saturday meetings, which provided the narrative infrastructure of the book. I enjoyed learning about each woman and how her individual arc of grief both differed from and mirrored that of other group members. Most of all, I liked these real, relatable women. I suspect that the book skips over a lot of the more private issues these women faced, but there was enough in here to give the reader a really good sense of who they were and what widowhood is like.

I discovered Aikman’s public Facebook page last night, and it was fun to see photos of the Saturday Night Widows and some recent updates about their lives. It’s rare to have the opportunity to follow up with characters in a book after you finish them, so this was a treat. I look forward to more updates on the page.

Finally, I started Saturday Night Widows on audio but thankfully transitioned to the print version about 1/3 of the way through. I can’t recommend the audio. The narrator is way too perky and upbeat – she’s a terrible match for the subject matter of Saturday Night Widows. She sounds like she should be narrating children’s books, not a memoir about widowhood. And her individual depictions of the six women were very exaggerated. I was so glad to switch to the print and let Aikman’s voice shine through, not the perky narrator’s.

I really enjoyed Saturday Night Widows and look forward to keeping up with these remarkable women via social media!